Alaska coast
Alaska coast ©Author Adventures

The Oscar Anderson State Historic House at 420 M Street in downtown Anchorage is open to the public during the summer. For more information about the museum, click here: aahp-online.net.

Anderson, who emigrated to the US from Sweden when he was 18, built a career as a businessman and survivalist who settled in Anchorage after living in a boardinghouse in Seattle in the early 20th century. In Alaska, he became a leader in several industries and raised his family in the house that was constructed there in 1915.

Interestingly, Oscar Anderson had several marriages: one to Elizabeth from Sweden, with whom he had children and moved to Anchorage before divorcing, then three times to his second wife (Jean Elizabeth Anderson) and finally to Elizabeth Anna Anderson to whom he was married when he passed away in 1974. Elizabeth Anna Anderson donated the home to the Municipality of Anchorage in 1976.

According to alaskahistory.org/biographies, Anderson’s leadership achievements were initially in meat packing but eventually expanded to oil drilling, milling, coal production and air transportation. His major literary pursuit was co-owning and developing the Anchorage Daily Times for six years (1929-1935). To see a photo of the newpaper building, click here: vilda.alaska.edu. Read more about Anderson’s history here: alaskahistory.org/biographies.

“In his later years, Anderson told the story of his arrival, which is printed on a kiosk in front of the home in Elderberry Park. ‘Everyone talked about the new settlement starting across Cook Inlet from Knik. I had to find a way to cross over, which was no easy matter, as there was a lot of ice on the Inlet and no one wanted to risk it. Finally, a 19-year-old youth who had a boat volunteered to row me across. It was no pleasure trip. At one point, the boy fell in the water. We pulled onto a large block of ice. I took out some dry clothes from my suitcase and we changed his clothes. After that, I had to finish rowing.’ By Anderson’s account, he was the 18th person to set foot in the tent city at the mouth of Ship Creek,” according to historian Laurel Downing Bill in seniorvoicealaska.com (2014).

Today, Anchorage has grown from the small tent city of Anderson’s early days to approximately 300,000 residents. A great place to find more information about the history of Alaska, complete with personal testimonies and vintage photos, can be found here: alaskahistoricalsociety.org.

The Oscar Anderson House is in the Anchorage part of the Alaska Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart